Hybrid working here to stay, but trust the key: Cisco

Share this article

Hybrid working here to stay, but trust the key: Cisco

Hybrid working will last long after the pandemic is over as the experience of the last eighteen months turns traditional work-life balance priorities upside down, Cisco’s Australian Vice President Ben Dawson told the first ever Great Place to Work® Masterclass.

Perhaps ironically, one of the key moves towards flexible hybrid working that Cisco made was when it mandated its people work from home early in the pandemic, taking the decision out of employees’ hands about where they work.

But the success of hybrid working has meant the global tech leader is keeping the hybrid approach to office and home working, as it reaps the benefit of a trusting, flexible approach to how leaders and employees manage their workloads.

“It’s evolved people’s mindset,” said Dawson.

“We used to build our personal lives around our work context.

“I’ve seen a flip there – now work is built around the family context.”

This means organisations need to adjust.

Dawson said Cisco quickly realised that the traditional idea of the 8am Monday morning start to the working week is no longer appropriate as people deal with home schooling and personal activities.

He also told Masterclass participants that he personally enjoyed learning more about his people’s lives outside work.

“The really fun aspect is we just know more about each other. We’re blurring the line.

“Everyone has been in meetings when you’re seeing the family cat or the kid on the lap. I for one just feel like I’ve got a much better insight into who people are outside the office and I really hope that that element is sustained as well.”

Cisco ANZ has been named Australia’s Best Workplace™ for two years in a row in the Great Place to Work Best Workplaces large category.

Great Place to Work is the global authority on workplace culture and has surveyed more than 100 million employees around the world over the last 30 years to understand what makes a great workplace.

Fundamentally, it boils down to trust and Dawson said Cisco made a point of building an open, trusting workplace culture built on clear and regular communication.

“Communications is taken as a top priority for leadership,” he said.

He recalled early in the COVID pandemic holding weekly briefings with staff sharing information and listening to employees.

“Once a week we would come together and tell people what we knew. Importantly that was two way – there was real time ability to pose questions or provide feedback.”

Cisco also took the step of engaging external experts like epidemiologists and medical professionals to advise employees and discover a path through the pandemic in partnership with its people.

This open, trusting culture is also seen in the way Cisco gives its employees the ability to make decisions on what they need to support their families and local communities and encourages time off for charitable opportunities.

“We had a number of employees go into Cisco offices and repackage the technology that we weren’t making use of at the time like video conferencing and then ship those out to frontline healthcare workers,” said Dawson.

“A couple of weeks ago we had … requests from federal and state officials to go and help with the COVID response in Wilcannia where there was an outbreak.

“Within eight hours we had a convoy of cars carrying equipment and engineers and we managed to stand up the network capacity that the local town required.

“The most pleasing aspect of that was I found out about it after.

“It wasn’t something that required sign off or direction – it was something employees took on themselves to do.”

Dawson advised organisations to put trust at the heart of all decisions.

“Trust first and deal with deviations from that,” he said.

“My greatest challenge frankly as a leader is getting people to down tools.

“I don’t have a problem with people not doing their bit. I don’t have a problem with people not working hard and not being focused on their customers and their teammates.

“The biggest challenge is getting them to down tools at five o’clock on a Friday night and take time out for them themselves.

“There’s no doubt hybrid work is here to stay.”

This was the first of our CEO Masterclass Series. We are running four 20-minute sessions hosted by Sean Aylmer, one of Australia’s most experienced and respected journalists, interviewing CEOs from the companies that ranked #1 in the Best Workplace™ Australia 2021 Lists in the large, medium, small and micro company categories. These companies truly made it their mission to foster a Purpose Driven, People First approach to workplace culture.

All masterclasses are online and free to attend. Please click here to watch a recording of the first masterclass or to register your interest in the form and we will keep you updated on the whole series.

Samantha Huddle is the General Manager of Great Place to Work® in Australia and NZ. Sam has more than two decades of experience from the grassroots to the C-suite and helps businesses build high-trust, inclusive cultures that deliver tangible results. With experience across the government, philanthropic and corporate sectors, Sam brings a collaborative, values-driven approach and a passion for achieving social impact through business. Sam publishes a well-read monthly newsletter which can be read **here.**

I want to get recognized!


To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.